After failing time and time again to reach my goals, I decided to keep things simple and invented the 20/20 rule to help bring my life back into focus during a difficult season in my life when many major life changes collided. In place of some of my bad habits (watching a TV show online to escape from reality, getting lost browsing on the Internet), I added two activities that would make the most difference in my life and bring me closer toward reaching my goals: 20 minutes of exercise and 20 minutes of writing. An amazing thing happened as I was finally being more of the person I wanted to be (healthy and creative) and doing those activities: for the first time in years, I felt truly content, energized, and excited to do them again the next day. No, they were not the 1-hour or more blocks of time I desired, but it was enough for what would fit in my life at that moment. You can do the same.
Throughout the process, be patient and gentle with yourself. Someone else’s darkness may be worse than yours, but that doesn’t make what you’re going through any less difficult. You will still have days of darkness (par for the course in life), but at least you will see rays of light…and eventually, you’ll walk in the light more often than not.
- Stop doing. Instead, focus on being. The doing you want to do will flow naturally when you are the person you want to be. Take the time to become that person. Modern technology has helped us save tons of time and gives us information about virtually anything at our fingertips. Still, you can lose countless hours on Internet, email, phone, and instant messages if you’re not disciplined in managing how long you allocate to each task. Take some of that time to breathe and think positive. This includes beginning to see your limitations and trials/struggles as blessings in disguise. Pain is never wasted. Maybe you are being protected from harm or maybe you are learning to fight like you never have so you can grow stronger. Learn to actually be thankful in all circumstances. You might not be thankful for the circumstance itself, but you can be thankful for the rest of your life’s blessings and the good that circumstance might produce in someone’s life. Practice being mindfully aware and grounded in yourself as you exist moment to moment.
- Stop trying to be happy. Too often, happy is superficial, self-centered, and one stress-filled moment away from a scream, tear, wail, or – as Spongebob Squarepants would refer to it – a “spicy sentence sandwich.” Contrary to popular belief, your happiness is not the purpose of your life. The purpose for us all is holiness, becoming increasingly good, peaceful, loving, etc. We all strive towards that same holiness in different ways, through different work and experiences that are all as special and unique as we are. If you’ve stopped doing (#1 above) and you are who the deepest desires of your heart tell you that you should be, you will be doing what you were created to do. As a result of fulfilling your life’s purpose, you will receive naturally something better than happy: a deep-seated joy, contentment, and thankfulness in your soul that no circumstance, person, or stress of life can steal from you. Don’t believe all the marketing and media; material things cannot make you happy for the long term. When needed and occasionally when desired, buy quality items, make do with less overall, and end the cycle of accumulating/purging all your material things that could disappear in an instant. The people and things in our lives should complement us, not complete us. Return to a simple way of living, and balance enjoyment with wisdom.
- Stop lowering the priority on caring for your well-being. If you’re sick or dead, then you won’t be able to help those you care about. Balance self-care with caring for others. Get enough sleep. Fuel your body with whole, natural food and supplement nutrition (don’t forget your local farmers’ market as a great resource for healthy, budget-friendly options). Use non-toxic products on your body and in your home/environment as much as possible. Move your body with daily exercise/activity that you enjoy. Reduce the body’s level of accumulated toxins (e.g., mercury from fillings in your teeth or vaccines, lead from paint or vinyl, molds from the environment or certain foods, etc.) under a professional’s supervision. Get regular chiropractic adjustments (structural correction for optimal body function and healing, not just pain management) and physical therapy as needed. Deal with persistently unhealthy emotions, thoughts, and behaviors by filling your mind and life with good things. Leave the useless garbage and heavyweight baggage behind. Set calm, mature, and loving boundaries in all relationships. Stop depending on or blaming others. Make sure you’re taking full responsibility for yourself. Nurture your soul.
- Stop taking life so seriously. We could be here for 50 more years or only 50 more minutes. If you can accept peacefully the worst-case scenario (you die, someone close to you dies, the world ends, dogs and cats live happily together, etc), then you have nothing to regret, fear, or worry about. If you can’t, then take a closer look at your faith (and yes, even no faith requires faith). Seek and dig for the truth. When you find the peace that surpasses understanding and it is inherently good in all ways and times, put your faith in it and then let your faith be put to the test. Find something each day to laugh about no matter what is going on in your life. Hold on to the good memories, be courageous, and laugh at the days to come.
- Stop procrastinating and quitting. Limitations are real and need to be worked around; excuses sound real, but need to be exposed for what they are. Commit to finishing what you start and standing up for what you believe in. You are special and unique. Be true to yourself. Stop listening to the crowds and the negativity that fills the world. Make a list of beneficial goals, create a realistic plan, and do it today. No matter how long it takes to achieve your life’s purpose and heart’s desires…no matter how many set backs…never give up. If, each day after day, you make choices to take small, faithful steps in the direction of what you know to be right and true, the steps will add up to big changes and you will be given strength for the daily battle as well as complete victory in time.